Fishing the Spring Run

The Hudson River has been romantically referred to as America’s Rhine by many writers. Spending a warm day watching it gently flow (north or south depending on the tides) with a fishing pole in the water is both relaxing and exciting. Many of us see the fisherman, sometimes with entire families in tow, set up along the pier starting in mid-March, but few are aware of the trophy fish they are trying to land.

First the alewives show up, usually sometime in late March or early April. Widely known as herring, these small baitfish were once so abundant in our area that a net was all that was needed to catch them. Following close behind come striped bass (Morone saxatilis). These predators have spent the winter cruising the Atlantic Ocean and have come back to their birthplace hungry to feed on baitfish and to spawn. Sometime in late April, an even bigger fish swims past us on the way upriver to spawn. The massive Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus) spends the first eight years of its life in the Hudson before it ventures out to sea. With a sixty year lifespan and capable of growing to over eight hundred pounds, these monsters only eat a diet of worms and small crabs. Shad, adolescent eels and even the occasional blackfish also make the river a temporary home.

All of this underwater traffic makes for a unique local fishing opportunity. The most commonly targeted fish mentioned above, the striped bass, has made an amazing comeback. Commercial harvesting by nets set up from beaches brought the stock to critically low numbers by the second half of the 20th century. It is now common to catch more than the DEC limit on a good day. Recently a world record eighty-one pound specimen was caught in the Long Island Sound. Most stripers are a more manageable size and easily caught close to shore where the herring spawn with nothing more than a modestly sized fishing pole, a license and some locally purchased bait. The slow growing Atlantic sturgeon is also making a steady comeback. A 40-year fishing moratorium has been placed on sturgeon and recently a 14 foot sturgeon was spotted in the river by researchers.

No special fishing pole is necessary and it only takes ten minutes to get a license online at bait, blue crabs cut into pieces work great and can be purchased at Woori Mart in Northvale. Blood-worms and sandworms are also effective and can be found seasonally at bait shops as well as by mail order from many suppliers. (Note that bloodworms tend to stay on the hook much longer, but have nasty little teeth!) Lastly, how-to YouTube videos and tons of online resources and forums can build enough confidence in any of us to take to the water.

Next time you see the river, remember there could be a 14 foot sturgeon looking back at you. Please make sure to check on seasons and limits before you go out and good luck!